Will Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden have an aluminum chassis when the 2012 season starts? Speculation has been rampant about the future technical course for Ducati Corse. So rampant, in fact, that Ducati’s resident technical genius Filippo Preziosi addressed the issue during a news conference prior to this weekend’s San Marino Grand Prix at Misano.
Hints about reverting from the radical but flawed carbon-fiber “non-chassis” to a more traditional beam frame began in Mugello, when Nicky Hayden said that unless results improved something would have to be done.
“We got to definitely see over these next few races if they can fix the problem with that bike or we might have to go really outside, try something different,” the 2006 World Champion said at Mugello.
That was the first weekend in July. Now, nearly two months later, the results haven’t improved, while the level of frustration has despite considerable updating. The carbon-fiber setup doesn’t have the adjustability of a traditional frame and, as developed by Casey Stoner, was much more rigid. More flexibility was engineered into the head stock and a new, more traditional swingarm and rear suspension was incorporated into the GP11.1, but with little success.
Here, then, are the highlights of what Preziosi said, or in some cases, didn’t say about Ducati’s 2012 MotoGP weapon.
• "Are we making an aluminum frame? We tested an aluminum chassis in 2009. It’s not a new idea. It’s not the material that makes the difference. It’s the design. We are thinking about chassis solutions in order to have better turning and better feeling."
• "I’m happy that our company gives me the freedom to do what we think is important to design, build, and test. This is not trivial. The company decided this time—like every time in the past—to give us the freedom to test. This is in the company’s interest, because it takes the best advantage of racing. Not just advertising, but building knowledge. Even testing solutions that aren’t part of our history. I like to test new things. I asked the company to do some things, and the company said yes—like in past."
• "Are we making a twin-spar frame? We will never tell you what we will do in the future. If you take a photo, we’ll describe it and sometimes say why we did it. Other times we’ll lie. I think if you ask Honda their next steps, they won’t answer you."
• "Do we need more lateral flexibility? This is a hypothesis. To test the hypothesis, you need to try new parts and see the lap time. More important than the absolute lap time (increasing the overall limit), we need to give riders the opportunity to be consistent—i.e., to be near the limit more often. (Hayden’s Indy GP warm-up as example)"
• "Are we using more flexible bushings, axle, etc.? Makes sense. It’s not easy to find the right the balance between flex and stiffness. If you get it wrong, there can be chatter, depending on the frequency of tires, etc. That’s why Honda did eight frames in one year, despite their vast experience."
• "If we can, we’ll put new parts on the bike this year, which is great, but more because it helps get data for next year (Not so much to help results this year.)"
• "Rumors are wrong. Although all parts on our bike are produced outside, including trellis, carbon, even bolts, our strategy is to keep the design and calculation inside. Sometimes the supplier is involved in the process (i.e., connecting rod), but this is not the case for the frame, swingarm, etc."
• "As soon as we think something can give us an advantage, we do it. We have no limits. We are focusing now on the chassis side, but if we felt that something other than a 90 degree V engine would help, we would do it."
• "Other companies ask for reducing tests because they know how dangerous Valentino is. They know the lion is in a cage. When we open the cage, he’s very dangerous."
• "We won’t ask for more tests. We will do what other companies think is best for the championship. We don’t think the crucial point is the number of days. The crucial point is to interpret the information that comes from our riders in the right way, design the right part, test the parts properly."